Could new Brumby Elementary threaten Sope Creek Elementary’s future?
by Nikki Wiley
March 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 11845 views | 28 28 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brumby Elementary faculty and staff hold signs in support of the proposed move near the property site for the new school on Saturday. <br>Staff/C.B. Schmelter
Brumby Elementary faculty and staff hold signs in support of the proposed move near the property site for the new school on Saturday.
Staff/C.B. Schmelter
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Residents of surrounding neighborhoods who oppose building the new Brumby Elementary at the proposed Terrell Mill Road location make their sentiments known at the site Saturday. <br>Staff/C.B. Schmelter
Residents of surrounding neighborhoods who oppose building the new Brumby Elementary at the proposed Terrell Mill Road location make their sentiments known at the site Saturday.
Staff/C.B. Schmelter
slideshow
MARIETTA — Some east Cobb parents fear that a plan to move Brumby Elementary School to a site near their neighborhood could result in school redistricting and the large tract may actually be intended for two schools.

But Brumby teachers say their school is in desperate need of a rebuild and the panic over redistricting is based on unfounded misconceptions.

The teachers stood on one side of Terrell Mill Road on Saturday morning holding signs that read “Will you be my neighbor?” as concerned homeowners stood on the opposite side of the street surveying the 35-acre site earmarked for Brumby.

The plot was placed under contract by the Cobb Board of Education for $9.4 million in early February.

Residents say the site is on an already congested road that is a main thoroughfare for commuters making their way to Atlanta.

They’re also concerned the site is much larger than what is needed to build a single elementary school and may be intended to house both Brumby and East Cobb Middle School, which is in line for a rebuild under a special purpose local option sales tax approved last March.

About $159 million from that SPLOST is set aside for construction projects, including two new elementary schools, a new East Cobb Middle and new buildings for Wheeler and Osborne high schools.

School board member Scott Sweeney, who represents both Sope Creek Elementary and Brumby, said no decisions about where to rebuild East Cobb Middle have been made, but it could end up at the Brumby site.

“That’s a possibility and we haven’t had a formal recommendation from the district’s administration,” Sweeney said.

The Cobb Board of Education asked the county’s traffic department to complete a traffic study for the Terrell Mill Road property looking into the feasibility of having both an elementary school and a middle school on the site, but that study has not been released yet.



School board member: Redistricting not needed

The proposed new location for Brumby sits at the very northern end of its district. It is close to the line where the portion of the county zoned for Sope Creek Elementary begins.

Residents are afraid that might cause the need for redistricting and could send some students zoned for Sope Creek to Brumby.

But that’s a claim Sweeney denies. He maintains that while the new school would be close to the line for a neighboring district, it is still within its attendance zone.

Schools do not have to be centrally located in their district, he said, pointing to Powers Ferry, Sedelia Park and Eastvalley elementary schools, which have all been “probably within a half mile of each other” since the 1950s or 1960s.

“The location of a school within its attendance zone, it has nothing to do with the drawing zone,” Sweeney said.

No recommendations have been made, Sweeney said, regarding redistricting.

Brumby and Sope Creek are about 2 miles apart right now, and if Brumby is rebuilt as proposed on Terrell Mill Road, the two schools would be just under a mile from one another.

Jennifer Ferrara moved to Cobb about a year ago from Charlotte, N.C. She chose to build a home in Sope Creek’s zone so her 5-year-old daughter could attend the school.

“Unfortunately, (Brumby’s) test scores are quite a bit lower, and a lot of the population turns over quite quickly,” Ferrara said.

Although Brumby teaches more minority and low-income students than Sope Creek, Ferrara said her concerns about redistricting aren’t about demographics. She says all students deserve a quality education, and she agrees Brumby needs a new school.

Still, she was hesitant to send her children to Brumby.

“I want her to go to a school with very high academic standards, and I’m not suggesting Brumby doesn’t have those, but if you look at them side by side one of them is rated 5 out of 10 and one of them is rated 10 out of 10,” Ferrara said.



Teachers say school doesn’t deserve reputation

Brumby teachers and staff who turned out Saturday morning to hold their signs reading “Will you be my neighbor?” and “Thank you CCSD,” said their school gets a bad rap.

The two schools have opposite reputations. Brumby is known for its high transiency rate and many students who begin the year in a classroom at the school move before the end of the year.

Brumby has a rating of 75.3 by the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, which was created to be a comprehensive rating of state schools.

Sope Creek was given a 98.3 rating.

Megan McNaughton, a Brumby math teacher, says those scores don’t accurately portray what goes on in her classroom.

“They reflect a kid’s performance over a week of testing,” McNaughton said.

Teachers acknowledge the school’s high transiency rate, but said the test scores of students who have attended the school from kindergarten through fifth grade are higher than the school’s average and tell a story of success.

It’s not Brumby versus Sope Creek, said Matt Lake, a second-grade teacher at Brumby.

“Sope Creek is a wonderful school and so is Brumby,” Lake said.

The two schools already have a great relationship, he said, and moving closer to each other may allow partnerships for activities such as field days.

Kelly Manthe is the school’s secretary. She has lived in a Terrell Mill Road neighborhood for more than 20 years and sent her three children to Brumby.

If neighbors are concerned about student performance or academic standards at Brumby, she said, they should get involved.

“If they wanted to build a different school, build it. Partner with us,” Manthe said. “Be the change you want to see.”

Supporter: Alternative is development

Michelle Ansley lives off Terrell Mill Road. Though her children attend private schools, she says the school board’s decisions impact her family.

A new elementary school on the site near her home would cause enough traffic problems, she said, but combining that with a new middle school would make the roads unbearable.

Brumby is proposed to take up about 15 acres of the 35-acre property. Though the school system is reviewing the traffic study it requested into the feasibility of putting two schools on the property, residents still don’t have definite answers about the board’s plans for the remaining 20 acres it has under contract.

“When asked about their plans for the 20 acres, they are very evasive,” Ansley said. “They say we can’t discuss it because it’s during the due diligence period (of the contract).”

Sheri George, vice president of the Terrell Mill Community Association, says the possible alternative for the site that was once farmland would have a bigger impact on the neighborhood.

“Of course, we all want it to stay the way that it is,” George said.

If the property were purchased by a developer and became a residential subdivision, George said, more traffic problems would be eminent.

“To me, listening to all the traffic concerns, I’m thinking do people not realize that this could be bought by a developer?” George said.

Surrounding neighborhoods are zoned R-15 under county designations. That zoning allows 2.5 homes to be built on every acre of land, which is 87.5 homes on 35 acres.

Each of those homes could have up to four cars adding to congestion on Terrell Mill Road, George said.



Residents want answers

Much of the opposition to the proposed school site has to do with the school board’s secrecy. The board met in closed session several times before announcing which elementary schools it would rebuild.

Government bodies are allowed to talk behind closed doors about the purchase of real estate under the Georgia Open Meetings Act. Though the exemption exists for land acquisition talks, boards are not prohibited from discussing these issues in public.

Since the board voted on the $9.4 million purchase in early February, no more public discussion has taken place.

Bennett Alsher has lived in the Old Paper Mill community since 1990 and sent his twin daughters, now 29, to Sope Creek as children.

He no longer has children in school but is upset about what he says is a lack of transparency.

“This is being sprung on us as neighbors and taxpayers,” Alsher said.

Neighbors understand the need to rebuild Brumby, Alsher said, and sympathize with the overcrowding issues the school faces.

Still, the mystery surrounding the school board’s plans has him unnerved.

“Again, we are not against the Brumby kids having a good school,” Alsher said. “Look, people move to where there are good schools.”

Comments
(28)
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S Cobb
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April 15, 2014
Sounds like Brumby has a mutual admiration society much like some of the low achieving schools in South Cobb. It so amazing to me that people can group up and tell each other how great they are as they walk down a path of failure.
smote
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May 19, 2014
It looks as they might have to rezone since not all the land they bought looks as if it is in the same zone.
conclude
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March 31, 2014
This is an excellent news posting with all the comments.

We will have a 2 new schools that will not be announced until it is too late to do anything about it. The school board is an elected group so please make sure and vote. This is not the best way to do thinks but someone is advising the school board incorrectly.

There will be two nice schools and hopefully Brumby will improve in its scores. Wheeler has done an excellent job with the Magnet school which pulls the brighest with the weakest. Let's hope Brumby can do the same.
S Cobb
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April 15, 2014
So how in the world is Brumby supposed to improve like Wheeler? This is the most insane thing I've read yet. Brumby is not going to pull in the brightest from other districts and put them with the weakest. The only reason, like you said, that Wheeler has shown anything positive is the Magnet program - which by they way, the magnet kids typically don't live in Wheeler district and are kept separate from the general population for the most part. Bricks and mortar don't make a school better. Everyone knows but in out PC world is afraid to say, it's the people in the community and their commitment to education that makes a school great. If the families around a school don't support education and the students are not willing to put in the work it takes to succeed, then you are just putting lipstick on a pig.
Buzzy Creplock Jr.
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March 25, 2014
Simple question:

What is more important, education or traffic?

Dave Z
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March 24, 2014
1. The new Brumby site will NOT impact Sope Creek. The CCSB is not blind to the realities of the situation and will not create a firestorm.

2. The new Brumby site WILL also include a rebuilt East Cobb Middle School. And in 5-7 years, the old ECMS site will be where Eastvalley is rebuilt.

3. Traffic WILL stink on Terrell Mill Road. Unfortunately, east Cobb is built out, so this property is the only viable option - even just for the elementary school.
anonymous
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March 24, 2014
This is really a story of bad zoning that goes back 20 and 30 years ago. It is not just in Cobb County - it's all over metro-Atlanta.

Snobs - they are everywhere and usually start with the peron calling somebody else a "snob".
Concerned Resident
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March 24, 2014
First off, Brumby is not the only school that needs to be rebuilt! As stated in the article, Eastvalley and Power Ferry Elementary are BOTH in just as bad shape as Brumby. They could EASILY kill 3 birds with 1 stone if they build new mutli-story buildings on the Powers Ferry & Eastvalley sites the same way they did Eastside Elementary (the school in Indian Hills near Home Depot). If that were done these 2 schools could easily absorb the Brumby student body and faculty.

Another option would be for CCSD to spend that money buying up a bunch of the dead business real estate in the North x Northwest business park off Terrell Mill. PLENTY of room to turn those vacant complexes into a GREAT school area.

As for East Cobb Middle School......There is absolutely NO reason to move it. The CCSD already WASTED several million dollars two years ago(?) giving it a so called "update". The answer for East Cobb is the same thing they did at Wheeler. Rebuild on the current site and put in new multi-story buildings.

CCSD Mom of Two
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March 23, 2014
I don't understand the panic about redistricting every time a school is selected to be rebuilt. Each elementary school has a small footprint in the county. If a school is selected the CCSD has to find 17 acres (the minimum amount) for an elementary school. It's very difficult to do - especially in East Cobb - so the elementary schools may end up in closer proximity to each other. It doesn't necessarily mean the students will be shifted. I'm happy for the Brumby community and am glad they're able to get off Powers Ferry.
CCSD supporter
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March 23, 2014
Very well written article! Thanks for sharing both sides of the story.
Just Sayin'....
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March 23, 2014
Why should the parents of one elementary school try to hold hostage the entire district's future plans and needs because they do not align with the unspoken agenda that these residents have? It is time to think about what is economically feasible, and not what is socially desired by this small group of elites. For the record, your school will need to be replaced in a few years also, and I am sure you won't have a problem asking your good friends the SPLOST gods for the money for that. It is time to put these petty differences aside, and if you do not like what is happening in your schools, push for the charter option OR simply take your kids out of public education and use the many private alternatives that you have available in East Cobb. The majority of schools in our district are merely trying to hang on. Welcome to reality Sope Creek.
S Cobb
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April 15, 2014
It's plain and simple. The Sope Creek parents don't want the lower achieving Brumby students in class with their children. If people were honest they would see it. If my child was typically a high achiever in a class with other high achievers, the last think I want to happen is a bunch of students coming in who don't get it and are going to take up the teachers time from my child keeping them from being able to move on. Teachers have to teach to the middle of a class, and as for me, I want the middle in my child's classroom to be pretty dog on high.
real issue
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March 23, 2014
Let's talk about the real issue here..... minorities shouldn't cross over Powers Ferry Road.

The two schools have opposite demographics. Brumby is almost all African American and Sope Creek is all white. Hmmm.....can anyone say gerrymandering??? Looks like redistricting needs to happen anyway.
S Cobb
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April 15, 2014
Oh yes, makes perfect sense. Let's take all the high achievers at Sope creek and put them in class with low achievers. I wonder who will get the teacher's attention more? I'm betting it's the low ones. Meanwhile the once high achievers start to drop.

So the formula is 1 high achieving school 1 Low achieving school = 2 mediocre schools. Just what we need!

Heaven forbid we let anyone succeed.
Old Fart
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March 23, 2014
Once again, our government leaders appear to be working like independent of each other, like 3 year olds in a sand box.

Improving the physical plant of Brumby is a project long over due. Improving the physical plant of East Cobb Middle is as well.

Putting them both on Terrell Mill Rd, a road which the County recently spent millions on to create more efficient traffic flow in and out of East is just plain stupid.

Well stupid is as stupid does. What does our scholl board care about traffic? Apparently nothing. I hope the County speaks up before it is too late.
Calypsoe
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March 23, 2014
Whether Cobb County is an affluent area or not does not matter. It has the best schools in the county and state. So the comment about "upper middle class" is a mute point. In my opinion, Brumby should be moved. If you build the school on the 35 acres, there would be enough room for massive carpool and bus lanes. So, if planned properly, it wouldn't have that much of an impact. And being that it's at the top end of the school zoning, the traffic would be going in the opposite direction of the morning commute. That being said, I'm very glad we recently jumped the creek.
Mercator
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March 24, 2014
Moot not mute
Just Wait
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March 23, 2014
It's an pubic elementary school people, not Harvard or Yale! Get over yourselves.
East Cobber
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March 23, 2014
Cobb is not an upper middle class county any more.

East Cobbers need to realize that....their numbers are dwindling and soon they will not have power....when they protest they sound like snobs
Reece Chapman
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March 23, 2014
The article was not correct. The traffic study has been released. Also, if the school board cannot talk about the use for the site while it is under contract, how can they talk about Brumby being built there and not another school or facility. Here is a response from the Cobb DOT regarding the traffic study for 2 schools at the location.

From: Stricklin, Jane [mailto:Jane.Stricklin@cobbcounty.org]

Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2014 2:57 PM

To: Garrett, Dave; DiMassimo, Faye; rcchap@bellsouth.net

Cc: Meyer, Eric; Montanye, David; Pruitt, Chris; Martin, Brook; Kelly, Wade

Subject: RE: Traffic study request

Dear Mr. Chapman,

Thank you for your email and interest in the traffic study for the proposed Elementary School on Terrell Mill Road. Below is some information regarding the study.

• The Traffic Study refers to relocation of Brumby ES and a middle school for the east Cobb area. While including data from the nearest middle school in the area (East Cobb MS), the Study states that East Cobb MS data is being used only to quantify probable site traffic impacts, should Cobb County School District (CCSD) decide to relocate an area middle school to this site.

• The Study determined probable traffic impacts to the school site and adjacent roadways, and provides recommendations to mitigate those impacts through site and roadway improvements. Roadway recommendations include right and left turn lanes on Terrell Mill Road at proposed school driveways. Please contact Cobb School District directly for questions regarding school site traffic recommendations.

• The completed Traffic Study was provided to CCSD on March 14, 2014.

• Certainty as to which middle school, if any, is relocated to this site is needed to complete a full analysis including a traffic signal warrants study at Greenwood Trail. Our Department plans a follow-up Terrell Mill Rd corridor study once we know for certain which, if any, middle school CCSD will relocate to this site. This follow-up would allow us to determine how school traffic impacts could be integrated in peak hour traffic progressions on this corridor, given our Adaptive traffic signal system to the west, and Lower Roswell/Terrell Mill coordinated signal system to the east.

Please contact Nick Parker at Cobb School District (770-420-4906 or Nick.Parker@cobbk12.org) should you have additional questions regarding proposed school relocations or the associated site traffic study.

Kindest regards,

Jane

Jane Stricklin, P.E., Development Services Manager/ District 2 Engineer

COBB COUNTY DOT

1890 County Services Pkwy / Marietta, GA 30008 / Tel: (770) 420-6664

Cobb County DOT Website: www.cobbdot.org

Road Closure Information: www.cobbgis.org:81/CobbCountyRoadClosuresPublic/public/

E Cobb "snob"
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March 23, 2014
I find your comment offensive and a little frightening. There are many wonderful people in E. Cobb and you sound like you're plotting some new world order.
marjory
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March 23, 2014
East Cobb boasts half a million dollar homes if not more, so I would call it rich. I seriously doubt the poor of Atlanta will be muscling into that area any time soon. Also, All they have to do is build a private school to cut out the poor or annex into their own city.
Give me a break
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March 27, 2014
East Cobb will become it's own city if the county were to ever do as you say and try to trample over its citizen's rights.
S Cobber
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April 15, 2014
That's right. Soon East Cobb will be at the bottom of the barrel like South Cobb. Maybe then, we can pat ourselves on the back as we sink toward mediocrity.

Nothing pleases low achievers more than pulling the ones at the top down. Instead of complaining, why not join us up here?
CCSD not truthful
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March 23, 2014
If the CCSD has already purchased that much property, they will be building two schools. They don't care about traffic either. Look at where Marietta City built MHS on Whitlock Road which is one of the busiest two lane in the county. It has massively messed up traffic, but the school districts do not care. The traffic for the two schools would be at different times of day. The elementary traffic is at 7:15-7:50 and 2:00-2:30, and the middle school traffic is from 9:00-9:20 and 4:00-4:30. Yes, they will redistrict. They need to stop misleading the public. Brumby has extremely low scores due to the demographics, not the teaching happening there. When you have a transient population with parents who don't care, you can't do anything with that as a teacher. Sad but true. Please don't blame the teachers.
Smote
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May 19, 2014
I don't blame the teachers - you are right - it is an impossible situation - they need to rezone - perhaps they are thinking to absorb Sope Creek and some of the other schools - the students with higher scores will bring up the lower scores of Brumby. Brumby will not improve just because of a new building. It is a bad situation - these students need to be rezoned into other schools so they are in a more stable environment. When you have a class of 28 and all but one student will move or change during the year makes it a bad situation for that 1 student and that teacher. The teacher is constantly trying to bring the new students up to speed. I would never put my child in at Brumby and it has nothing to do with teachers, kids or a new building - it has to do with an unstable environment which the school board seems to be overlooking.
Oh, Boy
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March 23, 2014
Re: building new elementary school close to Sope Creek. All I can say is Oh, Boy. And no plans to redistrict?? Ha, Ha. Don't bet on that.
Bill McCrorie
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March 24, 2014
At the very least, the facts are on the table and the shallow are exposed. What do I mean? During the valid malaise over traffic and the schools, a resident in Amberley Park took fear mongering to a new level at the expense of elected officials and local subdivision HOA boards, only to push a hidden agenda for candidacy on a school board seat. Your yellow signs are not fooling anyone.
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